The Link to Mount Gambier

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No. 2 Air Observers School (‘2AOS’) was formed at the newly built Mount Gambier base on 6th February 1941 under Squadron Leader Shaw, an officer lent from the RAF. The function of these schools was to teach navigation in accordance with the standard RAF syllabus, using twin-engine aircraft. The trainees would usually be fresh from eight weeks at an Initial Training School where they undertook academic studies but were also introduced to service life via drills, parades and physical training. Often the trainees’ first experience in an aircraft would be at their Observer Schools. The first training course at 2AOS commenced in March 1941 , comprising 46 navigation trainees and 3 wireless operator trainees. At this stage, the standard course was around twelve weeks’ duration. New courses were begun monthly.Initially, 2AOS was equipped with just four Ansons and two DH-84 Dragon biplanes. Even by mid-1941 only around ten Ansons had been received (several of which with RAAF A4- serials) a small number of DH-84s Dragons supplemented the Ansons at 2AOS in the first year. The situation improved towards the end of 1941: Another ten Ansons were received in October. 2 AOS Ansons were also required to fly maritime patrols to guard against enemy maritime incursions.

Aerial view of Mount Gambier RAAF base 1942.
A row of DH 84 and Avro Anson aircraft at Mount Gambier Airbase, South Australia.

While Japanese submarines were known to operate around the SE coast, the most interesting event in 2AOS’s war occurred on 9th December 1944, when 2AOS received news that a ship had been attacked by a submarine north west of Beachport.Indeed the Greek ship Ilissos had been attacked by the German U-Boat U-862. Mount Gambier historian Ron Telford wrote of the activity at 2AOS:“The adrenaline began pumping and excitement rose, as word spread around the base that a ‘flap’ was on. Crews were hastily assembled and briefed. Ground crews swarmed over several Ansons as they were armed for the hunt of this alleged intruder.” Four Ansons from 2AOS quickly flew to the location, and over the next several days intensive searches were flown. However the submarine was able to slip away from the area undetected.”